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Elizabeth Cooney is a health reporter for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
Boston Globe Health and Science staff:
Karen Weintraub, Deputy Health and Science Editor, and Gideon Gil, Health and Science Editor.
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Monday, September 10, 2007
Nursing mother files suit against medical exam board
By Carey Goldberg, Globe Staff
Sophie Currier, the Harvard MD-PhD and nursing mother who was denied extra time to pump her breasts during an all-day exam of medical knowledge, has filed suit against the board that administers the exam.
Her case is currently scheduled to be heard this Wednesday at 2 p.m. in Norfolk Superior Court in Dedham, said her lawyer, Christine Collins, but that timing is still under negotiation.
Collins is asking the judge for an immediate order requiring the National Board of Medical Examiners to provide extra time and an appropriate place for pumping. Currier plans to take the clinical knowledge exam on Sept. 24 and 25th.
Currier, 33, is not claiming that breastfeeding is a disability. But it is a demanding biological reality, she argues, and one that -- medical authorities agree -- is important for the health of her 4-month-old daughter, who is still exclusively breastfeeding.
Nursing mothers who go for hours without breastfeeding or pumping risk painfully hard breasts, plugged milk ducts and possible infection, as well as a possible reduction in milk supply.
Collins argues that it is a woman's constitutional right to breastfeed, and that denying Currier extra time to pump amounts to discrimination on the basis of sex. A member of the firm Bowditch & Dewey of Boston, Worcester and Framingham, Collins has taken Currier's case pro bono.
"We try to do the best job we can do to balance those priorities," she said.
Given the questions raised about breastfeeding, she said, she expects the board to re-examine its policy on lactation within the next year.